Claims that Priti Patel is some kind of vile-tempered bully are wrong – The Sun

THERE is no doubt in my mind that the sustained attacks on Priti Patel have been ­orchestrated by a small clique of disgruntled civil servants.

While this is an attack on one ­Cabinet minister, the truth is that this “death by a thousand smears,” is a direct challenge to who governs.

And it’s a fight this government must win

It all started when Ms Patel’s ­Permanent Secretary, Sir Philip ­Rutnam, a somewhat miserable-looking ­individual, resigned on a ­drizzly Saturday — the weather fitting his look.

His statement, laced with a sense of self-worth, deliberately set out to destroy the Home Secretary — and what followed over the following days has been an orchestrated ­campaign to smear her.

Claims that she is some kind of vile-tempered bully are, I believe, wrong and at times simply absurd.

Yet on and on they have dripped a stream of bad   —   and usually false — news, clearly attempting to bounce the Government into dumping her.

The problem is that over the past three-and-a-half years, some senior civil servants have rather got used to running government ­without much direction from elected ­ministers.

As Parliament descended into civil war over Brexit and ministers lasted in their jobs for weeks or at most months, Whitehall ticked over, with some senior civil servants becoming very comfortable with an overmighty Remain Parliament and a weak ­government.

Furthermore, reflecting lofty ­establishment disdain for those who supported Brexit, these nabobs of Whitehall luxuriated in the power to slow preparations for our EU departure down.


In effect we moved from “Yes, ­Minister” to “Only If I want to, ­Minister”. Then, in December, ­Whitehall got a rude awakening as the Conservatives weren’t just re-elected but re-elected with an enormous mandate and a majority of 80, effectively silencing the blockers’ Parliamentary opposition.

What has followed is a government in a hurry. Ministers have been set their tasks and are expected to deliver.

Yet on arrival in government many, expecting to find a much vaunted Rolls-Royce have encountered in some departments a crocked old Morris Minor breaking down at ­critical moments.

Too many top civil servants, ­astonishingly on higher salaries than the PM, sit atop dysfunctional ­departments and slope their shoulders when problems arise, leaving ministers to face the onslaught.

Now, faced with a Downing Street talking of reforming these institutions, a small number of them have, it seems, set out to block the Government.

This orchestrated ­campaign to get rid of a very senior minister will backfire, for it calls into question the loyalty and dedication of all civil ­servants, and when that trust breaks down, the next step is massive reform of the civil service.

Departments cannot work if ­ministers suspect the loyalty of those working for them — government then ­collapses.  The sad part of all of this is that most civil servants do not want this confrontation, the leaks and the attacks.

For a number of years, I worked with many civil ­servants with an enormous agenda of change, and for the most part they stepped up and worked hard to deliver it, regardless of politics.


I have high respect for their ­behaviour and I find they are just as concerned about what is going on, for they know the good is quickly buried by the bad.

These personal attacks have been savage and unfair.

I was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Priti worked for me at the time as one of the ministers. I do not recall her being accused or charged with bullying and the reports concerning this particular period at the department are utterly misleading.

Apparently in another allegation she belittled someone by cutting them off an email chain — poor dears.

I remember when I was at the department, I cut ­hundreds of people off email chains. I wonder that she was so restrained.

It is often fraught in ­government as enormous ­decisions have to be made and ministers have the right to the best supporting advice.

Of course, the systematic bullying of someone is unacceptable and the Cabinet ­Secretary will look into these claims but this should not be ­confused with strong, determined leadership making legitimate demands, particularly in moments of pressure.

As President Harry Truman said when criticised for his strong demands of people in government: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Within all of these ­criticisms of Priti is a cultural sneer. Rutnam is said to have thought her unintelligent.

If so, how did he and his apparently superior intelligence manage to screw up so badly over the Windrush ­generation such that Amber Rudd was forced to resign.

Oh no, you may have all the brains in the world but that’s no good if it turns out that when in authority, your leadership skills are so weak that you cannot even run a bath.

This government has an enormous agenda of change.

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Many around the country know they voted to get Brexit done, to ­control migration and to improve the police and they like the fact this Home Secretary believes in delivering on these pledges as a matter of urgency.

They wonder why many of those now briefing the media and bellyaching about her, who themselves earn large salaries, have job security and very good pensions, don’t just get on and deliver what the people voted for by backing Priti Patel.

There’s no question this is one fight the Government must win and deliver on our promises, or those who voted for us in December will never vote for us again.

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